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Monday, 10 December, 2018

Today at Cheltenham: your handy guide to the action on day one of the festival

Buveur D'Air: on his way to winning the Champion Hurdle
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Interested in the Cheltenham Festival? Here's your handy guide to the first of four spectacular days of racing

When is the big race?
The Unibet Champion Hurdle (3.30), which has been won by superstars such as Hurricane Fly, Istabraq and Dawn Run, is the feature race on the opening day of the meeting and last year's winner Buveur D'Air is expected to prevail again.

Buveur D'Air is not the only Champion Hurdle winner in the line-up, however, as he faces Faugheen, who looked capable of achieving all-time great status when winning impressively in 2015 but has since been hampered by injury issues and is bidding to become the first horse aged ten or older to win the race since the mighty Sea Pigeon in 1981.

Who are the main men to note?
Faugheen's victory in 2015 formed part of an opening-day treble for the Ruby Walsh and Willie Mullins combination, which had bookmakers trembling with fear that success for Annie Power in the Mares' Hurdle would cost them a £50 million payout. Only a last-flight fall, when she had the race at her mercy, saved the layers, and they will be worried about Mullins and Walsh once again getting plenty of punters off to a flying start with Getabird in the Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle (1.30) and Footpad in the Racing Post Arkle (2.10).

If Getabird, Footpad and the Nicky Henderson-trained Buveur D'Air all win the bookies will be praying Apple's Jade gets turned over in the OLBG Mares' Hurdle (4.10), with lots of multiples likely to be running on to last year's winner. However, Apple's Jade, who has been successful seven times at Grade 1 level, is widely considered as one of the bankers of the week for Gordon Elliott.

How do I follow the action?
The first five races will be broadcast live on ITV, which will be on air from 1pm to 4.30pm, while the final two races will be on RUK or available through bet-to-view streams. You can also get all the latest reports and news stories on the Racing Post website from our crack team of course reporters.

Speaking of the course, what will the ground be like?
It will be hard work for horses and jockeys, with heavy set to feature in the going for the first time since 1989. Stamina, which is already at a premium given the famous uphill climb to the line, takes on extra significance given the extreme conditions. Clerk of the course Simon Claisse has said there's no threat to racing going ahead.

Anything else to note from the other races?
Elliott has won three of the last seven runnings of the National Hunt Chase (4.50), and is responsible for joint-favourites Mossback and Jury Duty. The race is confined to amateur riders and Elliott has enlisted some of the best in the business for the market leaders, with Lisa O'Neill, who won last year's race on Tiger Roll, riding Mossback and the widely acclaimed Jamie Codd on Jury Duty.

The first handicap – and big betting race – of the day comes up with the Ultima Handicap Chase (2.50), in which last year's runner-up Singlefarmpayment bids to go one better. David Pipe and Tom Scudamore have been the men to follow the last two years as they struck with Un Temps Pour Tout on both occasions, and this year are represented by Ramses De Teillee.

The day concludes with the ferociously competitive Close Brothers Handicap Chase (5.30). There may be easier races to find a winner this week. . .

Follow all the latest Cheltenham news and views with the Racing Post blog

They will be worried about Mullins and Walsh once again getting plenty of punters off to a flying start with Getabird in the Sky Bet Supreme Novices'
E.W. Terms
Sky bet